French Toasted 

Where waiters and diners tell tales.

When my husband and I were first dating, we met up one Sunday morning for brunch and conversation before taking a long hike. Nothing was open except one landmark Berkeley restaurant, so despite its high prices we followed our stomachs inside. I ordered French toast and was delighted with the result: It was cooked to perfection on obviously housemade bread.

I took one happy bite and was about to take another when the waiter whisked it away. "The chef told me not to let you have that one," he explained. I waited patiently for the replacement, which turned up minutes later as a nearly raw mess of something just shy of Wonder Bread. After I sent it back, it reappeared cooked enough to be consumed but not at all worthy of its price. As the waiter stood by our table apologizing at length, my fella and I frantically tried to regain our privacy and trains of thought.

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